The Sunny f/16 Rule

Did you know you can determine the correct exposure outdoors in almost any situation without a light meter and without using your camera’s TTL meter or LCD screen? It’s true. I learned to call this the sunny f/16 rule. I recently spent some time with a dyed-in-the-wool video shooter, a real videographers (if you will), and we were discussing the different truisms and things that are particular to our different industries. For instance, did you know that the standard pat answer for "hey, what are you guys doing?" when you’re all set up on a big fancy video shoot is, "We’re shooting a mayonnaise commercial." I didn’t either. But I love it, and I’m going to use it whenever people ask what I’m shooting. I shared some information with my videographer friend too. Like zone exposure basics and the Sunny f/16 rule. That’s where this post from DIY photography comes in, because it’s also about the Sunny f/16 rule. It’s in the version of a little graphic card you can carry with you in your pocket until you’ve got the whole thing perfectly memorized. The basics, by the way, are simple: On a normal sunny day, the correct exposure will be 1/ISO at f/16. So if you’re shooting at ISO 100, the correct exposure will be 1/100th at f/16. It’s translatable to cloudy days and bright snowy or sandy situations too. This card errs on the side of overexposure, but perhaps that’s simply an adjustment for overexposure while shooting RAW. Either way, the principles are sound. You don’t need a meter, or an LCD screen to know the correct exposure as long as you know the Sunny f/16 rule.

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